“I needed my audience to see that Killer Mike is something that this nine-year-old kid created to be fierce and badass and protect him from any ill,” the artist born Michael Render tells Apple Music’s Zane Lowe. “This is my come-home moment musically. It is gospel, it is soul, it is funk, it is hip-hop. And from a moral standpoint, I was taught morality through the Black Southern Christian church, which gave us the civil rights movement, the abolitionist movement, which gave us some of the most beautiful music ever. And I feel like I'm honouring that and I finally figured out my place.” Released 10 years after Run The Jewels transformed Killer Mike from a workaday regional rapper to the kind of guy holding public court with national politicians, MICHAEL is, on some level, a celebration of just how far he has come. But it’s also an exploration of the complex personality that got him there: the son of a drug dealer who needs to mourn his childhood but struggles to let his guard down (“MOTHERLESS”), the community leader trying to elevate youth while snapping back at the perceived narrowness of their politics (“TALK’N THAT SHIT!”), the middle-aged man finally reckoning with the collateral PTSD of Black life in America (“RUN”). “My mother and grandmother left me,” he says. “‘MOTHERLESS’ is about that and about the emptiness you feel, and as a human I feel like I've lost something. But if all the electricity left tomorrow, there'd still be trees moving, there'd still be wind grooving, and that's all we return to. When you close your eyes, you listen to this record, this device ain't how you are hearing this song. These vibrations are how you're hearing this song.” There’s also “SCIENTISTS & ENGINEERS”, which features fellow Atlanta legends Future and André 3000. “Artists love and respect one another,” he says. “The what, who's done what, it's literally the style. You just waiting to hear your partner's next style.” And on a production level, the sustained mix of slow-and-steady trap beats with gospel choirs and soaking-wet organs evokes both the humidity of his Atlanta summers and the blend of sacred and profane that has characterised Black pop from Sam Cooke to Kanye West. If he weren’t so smart and soulful, you might call him a crank. But he’s both.

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